When I first learned about Montessori, we had just welcomed our second son and I was in the midst of trying to figure out where my then 3-year-old son was going to go to preschool. He had been attending a 3-day-a-week autism therapy school for early intervention and was about to complete his time there since he had reached all of his targeted goals.
I searched long and hard for a preschool that I felt would be a good part-time option for him to go to, but ultimately decided I wanted to teach him at home. That’s when I discovered the Montessori Method. I dove in and studied the method for hours upon hours and began setting up a montessori homeschool environment in our home.
Montessori opened my eyes to the beauty and wonder of creation. I truly believe the Lord used the Montessori method to give me a whole new perspective on life. It changed me, and my family! With that being said, I want to share with you the environment I’ve created, re-created, changed, and always-want-to-do-more-things-to with you! I’ve been blessed by family and attempted lots of DIY projects to obtain what we have at the moment. A
lso, I have to mention that my sweet husband let me take over his music room (he’s a musician) for our homeschool room, and although we have his music gear shoved in random corners of our house, he [hardly] ever complains and I love him dearly- thanks honey.
Okay, so our room…
This room used to be an outdoor deck but was made into a small bonus room by the previous owners. We have lots of awesome windows, and as you’ll see, I use the window sills to hold some of the boy’s materials. Here is a view of most of the room:
Almost all of the artwork you will see on the walls are watercolor art cards that I got from Montessori Nature when I first started putting together the room. I really love these and they’ve been a super easy way to add beauty to the room.
We have one shelf for my 4-year-old and 1 shelf for my 1-year-old. Here is a close-up picture of my 4-year-old’s shelf.
When I first began setting up our shelves, I placed all of the “typical” Montessori materials on the shelf; sandpaper letters, red rods, sound cylinders, metal insets, etc. I literally wanted it to look like a “real” Montessori classroom (even though I only had one shelf lol!)
But, my efforts pretty much fell flat. My son didn’t really engage with the material and a “work cycle” was not even a reality. I tried different ways to get him engaged and rotated materials around but he would just lose interest and want screen time (the dreaded screen time battle). I was really discouraged and wanted to give up. However, a year after starting this journey, I’ve realized that trial and error is all a part of the process, and it’s really helped me begin to learn what it means to “follow my child”.
Taking the advice of Child of the Redwoods, I sat down and wrote out what goals I had for my oldest son for the following 3 months and adjusted his shelves accordingly. My main goals for him were to improve his concentration, and help him engage in material independently, establish a routine, reinforce the numerals 1-9, and try to introduce some letter sounds.
To start: Practical life and sensorial materials are on the top shelf. We have dry pouring work, transferring pom poms with tweezers, miniature knobbed cylinders, and geometric solids with matching cards from everystarisdifferent.
The second shelf is for language and math work. These are rotated depending on the day and my son’s interests. We have one metal inset in a tray, a writing sand tray (from target for $3!), I-Spy sound basket with safari toob animals, rhyming puzzle cards, 1-10 counting peg boards, and sandpaper numerals.
I removed the sandpaper letters off of this shelf a few months ago because I noticed my son was not interested and even avoidant of this work. I believe it was discouraging for him because he didn’t really understand why these letters “made” sounds. So, I researched more about developing phonemic awareness and found some incredible information from Maitri Learning. I decided to focus mainly on oral language development and the I-spy sound game.
Helping him explore the sound without the symbol has made a huge difference!
So, to my surprise, the reason the sand writing tray with letter cards is on the shelf is that my son picked it out at the store a week ago and actually started associating the beginning sounds of the image on the card (not the letter symbol), and has been drawn to it every day since! (Super excited about this)!!! I think I could write on the topic of language development for days.
Okay moving on. The bottom shelf holds his matching daily workbooks, unit study tray, and his library books.. I bought and downloaded the workbooks from The Autism Helper and they’ve been great for helping my son work on sustained attention while doing something error-free and fun.
The tray in the middle is his unit study tray. I consolidate it to one tray for purposes of space- but it doesn’t seem to bother my son. Right now, he is really interested in sharks. There are multiple different activities from 3Dinosaurs and everystarisdifferent.
The last basket on the shelf holds our library books. The boys like seeing what “new” books we’ve checked out at the library and it keeps my oldest interested in them. It also helps me remember to return them 🙂
To the right of the shelf is a little reading nook.
My toddler actually enjoys this area the most! My oldest’s work rug lives behind the chair. This is also where we have his DIY number rods and the bead bar printable from Montessori Nature. I keep the bead bar hanger on the window sill because my toddler likes playing with them but they are a choking hazard.
On the opposite window is our little DIY calendar. I heard somewhere that having a linear calendar and only showing one week at a time is a good approach, but I really don’t know. I’ll probably change it to the full month soon. Above the book holder is a “token board” I created for my oldest. Token boards are used in ABA therapy.
I was hesitant to use this because I really want to help my son develop a natural internal drive, but this is actually a great first step toward that. My son loves youtube kids, so some days when he is really not feeling like doing any “work” or even playing with legos etc. I will have him do 3 activities or “works” before he gets screen time. We don’t use this every day, but the days we do use it he gets excited about putting a star on after each completed work.
To the right of this area is my one-year-old’s shelf. We are blessed by my husband’s parents who buy our youngest the Lovevery kit bi-monthly. This has been a HUGE help for me, because I can read the material and development packet that comes with each kit and everything is there for me to use. HUGE TIME SAVER!!!
Our toddler loves books, so I always keep a few on his shelf. Our DIY pink tower is a little advanced for his age right now, but it’s pretty and both of my boys like it so I leave it out. My youngest is enjoying transferring and is obsessed with dogs right now, so the first work on his shelf is a bowl with safari toob dogs in it! He loves to take them out and put them in the tray, then transfer them back to the bowl. I have the safari toob dog printable from Montessori Nature and plan to introduce that for matching work soon.
The next material on his shelf is an adapted DIY version of the sound cylinders. One set has no sound, and the other set does. I’m letting him explore the concept of sound/no sound right now and since he loves music, he plays with these a lot! The vocabulary cards, coin box, stacking cups, and the bunnies in a felt burrow are all Lovevery materials.
He also has a melissa and Doug puzzle on the second shelf, and then a sensory bin on the bottom shelf. I’m always carefully watching him with the sensory bin because of the small parts, but he LOVES it! He used to pull it off the art shelf so I finally placed it on his.
Next to this and in the corner are the “play” area. Both of my boys love playing with their little kitchen (Ikea) and the tent is a big hit. My oldest actually uses the tent as a hiding space when he is overwhelmed with big emotions and it really seems to help him self-regulate. It also serves as a fun area for both boys to play. Above the tent are my [messy and cluttered] storage shelves. You gotta put all this stuff somewhere right?!?
The opposite wall is home to the boy’s table, our Bible area, and our miscellaneous art shelf/ “catch-all” shelf. I put together this small Bible area to set apart a “special” space for our Bible work. I don’t have any stories out right now, but I like to make little sets of Bible stories for them to play with. Aside
from this area, we talk about Jesus throughout our day naturally. It’s truly fascinating to hear little minds process the beauty and love of God.
The art shelf serves as a sort of “catch-all” space. We don’t have much storage in our house, so this area is a work in progress. I’d like to eventually get a shelf to hold our sensory bins, open-ended toys, and art materials- but until then, this holds most of it. Also, just to be honest, that corner is usually filled with so many random toys. In order for this picture to even be taken, I had to move at least 7 toys to the living room. Don’t judge me.
So- That’s it! Whoo, what a long post! Thank you so much for reading and I truly hope this post if not for anything else- inspires you to keep trying even if you feel defeated. It’s been a journey for our whole family and we are better for it. One day at a time. PS: This room is hardly ever this tidy. Here’s a picture of it after I finally let my kids come play post picture taking:
I call this “reality”
About the Author Hi! I’m Summer. Wife to the best guy I know (don’t tell him I said that) and momma to two boys, ages 4 and 1. My family unit is a constant reminder to me of the redeeming love and mercy of God. Having children changed my life, and I am truly thankful everyday that I get to be their momma and teach them at home. Montessori opened up a whole new world for us and I’m grateful to have a chance to share our journey!